Masks and Meaning of Purim

by Andrea Simantov February 27, 2017


living-marchWe know that she was raised in the house of Mordechai, a devout and G-d-fearing Jew.  Thus, it stands to reason that the laws of kashrut – keeping kosher – were scrupulously observed.  No mixing of milk products with meat and separate utensils for both, no shell-fish or pork, vegetables checked in a prescribed manner. It stands to reason that Esther was equally Torah-observant and not sneaking off for the occasional McDonald’s cheeseburger or lobster roll. Just saying.

The Queen Esther Diet would have most likely consisted of fruit, vegetables, nuts and an occasional whole-trout cooked in foil. She must have looked stunning because at that time there were no Chabad Hospitality Houses offering sliced brisket and grease-laden slabs of kugel.

I love the story of Purim because it is the story of partnership. Not only the partnership between Esther and Mordechai who intrepidly saved the Jewish people from extinction; the partnership of the Jewish people and G-d. Many readers of this article will not believe me when I tell them that the name of G-d appears nowhere in the Purim Megillah. Not once. But everyone thinks it is a religious story. Because it is. G-d doesn’t “appear” because He is everywhere at all times. Even when we don’t think He’s present.

Esther didn’t want to participate in the beauty contest. She would have been much happier staying at home, reading some Jane Austen and crocheting challah covers. But that zany King, Achashverosh, made the competition non-optional and, with his goofy history of hanging women who disobeyed him, Esther brushed her teeth, combed her hair and headed for the palace.  Surrounded by thousands of women at what appeared to be a Kardashian convention, Esther felt confident that her drab, mousy look – sans jewelry and makeup – would not attract the King’s lascivious gaze. She’d be home watching Seinfeld by 7. But she erred.

He was crazy about her. Her purity and no-nonsense attitude served as an aphrodisiac, like the law of opposites. He had to have her! The missing half of his tormented self! Clearly she’d goofed and, consequently, became the inspiration for Purim costumes around the world for eternity. Esther learned to dress, apply lip-liner and, in time, the other Kardashians curtsied when she sashayed past, trying to cozy-up into her good-graces. However, keeping quiet about being Jewish weighed heavily upon Esther and she told Mordechai that she was scared of becoming another swinging-from-the-gallows ex-wife.

Mordechai’s (paraphrased) answer deserves deep-reflection from members of the tribe living in Jerusalem, California, Johannesburg, Bangkok and other nooks and crannies of the globe.

“G-d will do His thing and redeem the Jewish people from their enemies with or without your help, Esther. Our ultimate redemption does not lie in the efforts of man. However, as history weaves, turns and unfolds, what part will you have played? Will you embrace the challenge that is thrust upon you or, instead, cower and kow-tow while trying to hide that which cannot be hidden?”

Being “out there” with one’s passions denotes nothing other than mob-mentality, especially after the press leaves and the palace make-up artists pack up their bags. Change, morality and hope are products of that which is both hidden, accurate and acted upon. The story and lesson of Purim is not one for the bookshelf or dustbin. It is painfully relevant today, quietly pulsing beneath the screaming headlines. Calling upon each and every one of us to accept our respective challenges with outstretched arms.


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